Residents of a municipality in Michoacán’s Tierra Caliente region armed themselves on Thursday after local communities came under attack by a cell of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
The cell attacked several communities in Tepalcatepec Thursday morning including Los Cuchis. According to a report by the newspaper El Universal, armed men began firing at the town at 8:30 a.m. from the nearby community of Voladeros, located in the neighboring municipality of Aguililla.
Los Cuchis residents fled their homes to seek safety in other towns. There were no reports of any casualties.
The CJNG, usually considered Mexico’s most dangerous and powerful criminal organization, is reportedly intent on taking control of Tepalcatepec and the neighboring municipality of Buenavista.
Residents of Tepalcatepec and Coalcóman, another neighboring municipality, recently dug trenches across highways in an attempt to prevent CJNG hitmen from entering their communities and attacking them.
After Thursday’s attacks, residents gathered in the Tepalcatepec town square where they decided to take up arms and deploy as self-defense forces to the communities that were targeted. They also agreed to dig more highway trenches and to block off paths where criminals enter the municipality on foot.
Residents of Los Cuchis posted video messages to social media calling for help from state and federal authorities.
The CJNG is believed to operate in almost every state of Mexico, aggressively expanding its influence since forming in Jalisco about a decade ago.
Its leader, Nesmesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, is Mexico’s most wanted drug lord and is also sought in the United States, where a US $10-million reward is on offer for information that leads to his arrest.
According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, the CJNG manufactures, distributes and smuggles into the U.S. large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. It is also involved in other criminal activities such as fuel theft and extortion.